De-stigmatizing a plant for suffering children everywhere

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Changing Cannabis's Schedule 1 Drug Status Matters: A Conversation With Maria laFrance

The following is a conversation with Maria LaFrance of Iowa. Maria is mother of a son with autism and epilepsy. Since CBD Oil is not yet legal in Iowa her son has not tried it.  Maria ardently advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana in all fifty states.


Tell us what you think is the most effective strategy toward legalizing CBD oil for these medically fragile and chronically ill children?


Ok, wow! Well, there are differing trains of thought on how best to get patients legal access. Some people say focus on your state, others think federal re-scheduling will solve this faster. I have my bets on federal, but I haven't ignored my state. And then there are people advocating for only high-cannabidiol CBD oils vs. the people wanting high psychoactive antioxidant THC for cancer vs. the full-on "legalize it all" recreational users. Then there's people who've been wanting this for years who may be a bit justifiably cynical, but they need to be supportive of new people's efforts, like yours and mine.

All of these differences in opinion tend to spark animosity among people who all want access to medicine. I support all of these efforts, I say try whatever works and see if it sticks. We need to work together. Any form of legalization in any state or region helps children and sick people. Full legalization sounds scary to some, and that's not my fight, but Colorado, Canada, France, Israel and other places where its legal haven't gone off the deep end, and their kids get medicine.

In the realm of justice and righting wrongs, federal re-scheduling out of Schedule I must happen, because Schedule I is for drugs that have no accepted medical benefit with high potential for abuse, which is why I started the petition after reading the Gallup poll and researching the evidence.

I'm trying all angles. I called and wrote all the news, and since they didn't reply, I made a YouTube video, and sent it to legislators. Since they didn't respond, then I started calling. Wow, the power of the phone and face-to-face trump email. Every politician I've talked with (I'm just getting started on that) has been polite and responsive. And they have told me that they don't hear from their constituents enough on this issue.

If a state is lucky enough to have a bill, or even if it doesn't, it's good to call on experts from other states for help. Our state is hosting another state's MMJ policy director to talk about how such a program might be set up. And moms are getting involved, and politicians know better than to cross a mom. Thank you, for getting involved, Suzanne.

Of course, the fastest way to get legal access is to move to a state where it's legal. But not everyone is able to move. It's not fair that families who've endured the tragic conditions of epilepsy, Regressive Autism, cancer, etc. already gave up their dreams of a typical life, and then to have to leave their home, friends and whatever life they managed to make in their own state. So we have to change this.


Tell us more about the federal scheduling petition you created. You mentioned that it requests a change in cannabis' Schedule 1 designation. What would the replacement classification be and what would be the implications of that change?


Ok. As an example, let's use some of my son's prescription drugs, Ritalin and Valium. Ritalin is a Schedule II drug, and Valium is Schedule IV. I never cared what "Schedule" they were in, and we shouldn't have to as parents. On top of that, we travel with my son and his prescriptions to lots of different states, and these prescriptions are never contested. So I'm not terribly na├»ve, but when my son's neurologist said she can't prescribe cannabis for my son, I was surprised. Looking back, I laugh at myself that I thought she could. I've heard about people using it for glaucoma and things, and I always thought they were doing it legally. So, according to the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) determines Schedules I through V substances based on criteria such as whether they have a currently accepted medical use in the US and their relative abuse potential and likelihood of causing dependence when abused. Marijuana is Schedule I, the classification schedule of having no accepted medical benefit and a high potential for abuse. Meth and opium-derived medications are Schedule II. Shocking, right?

There are three ways that I can see to reschedule marijuana, or cannabis. 1) Congress has the authority to change laws through bills, or to amend acts such as the Controlled Substance Act. 2) Any concerned body can petition the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify a specific drug. And 3), the Attorney General can remove any drug from the schedule if he finds it does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.

So this petition calls to reschedule marijuana, because it has accepted medical benefit. It doesn't recommend to which Schedule it should be reclassified, because when you think about it, ANY other classification besides Schedule I allows sick patients to have this as prescription medicine without persecution. People have picked apart the wording or who specifically it should be addressing or who has what authority, but frankly, there are and have been lots of petitions to the DEA, lawsuits against the HHS, and even past petitions to the White House: maybe this approach is nicer and kinder, and more importantly, I thought the timing was right. Minds are being changed as we read this. The petition itself wouldn't remove it from Schedule I, but it could be a place where the 58% in favor can unite. And states can print off the signatures and use them as proof in their state legislature.


Well, The American Medical Association should sign this petition then since it recommended in 2009 that the federal government change the Schedule 1 classification for marijuana. They know that this designation makes it mostly illegal for researchers to study the medicinal properties of cannabis. And since available research from other countries suggests that cannabis does indeed have medical benefits these restrictions concern the AMA. Removing Schedule 1, then, would open up many research possibilities now prohibited by law. And yet, despite this input from America's most prestigious medical body still no change from the federal government.

How many signatures does this petition require to be viewed by The White House? And how much time is left to obtain them?


The White House asks 100,000 signatures by Nov 30, but they have responded to petitions with far fewer signatures. All we need is one major news agency to adopt the petition and we'll get their attention, but people fighting this a long time are likely petitioned out. But the White House is not dealing with an ordinary petitioner. I'm going to talk with them about their clunky process and ask for more time, and explain the new reasons why. I'm not giving up on the federal route, and neither are others. There is a new petition on yesterday, it had 9 signatures. So I helped him out and was signature 10. Cost me nothing.


Because the government has been wrong on marijuana, many people feel their voices haven't been heard and have lost faith on this issue. But I haven't, you hear me: Mr. Obama, Holder, Leahy, Grassley, and Ms. Leonhart? I believe in you and I'm trying to get your attention!


Though overall government progress has been slow, I think the Obama Administration has been a friend to this issue. Its decision not to prosecute medical marijuana users is responsible for our having been able to learn that Charlotte's Web helps intractable epilepsy. Prosecutions would have most parents too afraid to try the oil for fear of being arrested and having their children taken into state custody. And if they did try this they certainly wouldn't be shouting success stories from the rooftops for our inspiration.

But in three years we will have a new president and there's no guarantee the next guy will maintain the no prosecution policy. What then? After years of drastic seizure reduction will kids with intractable epilepsy have their treatment yanked out from under them? Will parents be thrown in jail for giving their kids an oil that wouldn't get them high if they drank a pint of it? Will those children then be sent to state custody with bottles of anticonvulsants that didn't work the first time? And will doctors lose their licenses for prescribing this plant that heals? Cannabis must be de-classified from Schedule I now!

Thank you for your hard work and dedication, Maria.



Sign the White House Petition that requests cannabis' Schedule 1 designation be removed.

Click here.


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